Saturday, August 27, 2011
The Last Time 'Irene' Hit The Great White Way
Not because it's white. They call it that because it's so full of light -- so much artificial light from all the mega-watt signage and all the theater marquees, that even at night, it seems like daytime.
It's Times Square, New York -- Broadway. It always looks that way.
But not tonight.
Tonight Broadway is closed. It's shuttered. It's dark. On Broadway's busiest day (and night) of the week there isn't a single curtain going up.
Because Broadway's sealed tight awaiting the wallop of Irene.
But this is hardly the first time Irene has ever appeared on Broadway.
In fact, Irene first appeared on Broadway in 1919 as a musical. It ran for 675 performances, made a star of Edith Day and became the longest running musical up to that time.
Irene returned to Broadway for a revival in 1923 and was even turned into a movie -- twice.
But then Irene disappeared from Broadway for nearly half a century.
The "new" Irene opened the Minskoff Theater on Broadway in 1973 with a star-studded cast led by Debbie Reynolds and including Monte Markham, Patsy Kelly and George S. Irving. The New York Times critic Clive Barnes described the show as "raucous" and added that Irene was "the best 1919 musical in town." This time around, Irene ran for 594 performances.
The show won only one Tony Award -- George S. Irving for best featured actor in a musical. Irving was a veteran Broadway comic and a favorite.
Irene was a fluffy, silly show (though it featured some great songs) and never really became the darling of Broadway's elites. Though it featured Debbie Reynolds it became known as a mere "star vehicle" as she was considered more Hollywood than Broadway. The show never became a boffo hit.
Now Irene is back -- for revenge!Here's a synopsis of the story:
Irene O'Dare is a humble but ambitious, hard-working Irish girl from West Side Manhattan, who runs a little music store with her widowed mother. Irene is sent to tune a piano for young tycoon Donald Marshall III, a Long Island society gentleman, and they promptly fall in love, each captivated by how different the other is from their usual friends.
Donald's ne'er-do-well cousin Ozzie wants help to jump start a fashion business to be run by his friend, "Madame Lucy", a flamboyant male artiste. So Irene and her pretty best friends, Helen McFudd and Jane Burke, are recruited to model Madame Lucy's gowns, and Donald provides financing. Irene's mother and Donald's mother do not see eye-to-eye at first but grow to be friends.
Irene poses as a society girl who convinces everyone to shop at Madame Lucy's, but she becomes angry with Donald when he asks her to continue the ruse.
He finally relents, her true identity is revealed, and he sings "You made me love you."
But this time around, Irene doesn't care if she's loved or not.